Even after they heard

“But even after they heard the news, they didn’t believe that Jesus was alive and that Mary had seen him.” –Mark 16:11 CEB

I am trying to imagine how frustrating this must have been for Mary.

She has seen Jesus.

Seen Jesus.

And when she announces the news, they don’t believe it, they don’t believe her.

Can you imagine how she felt?

Spiritual Formation of The Twelve

Mark’s gospel presents the good news of Jesus and His kingdom breaking into the world. Tracking along throughout Mark’s gospel as an example of people coming to grips with the kingdom is the story of the disciples. As the following passages demonstrate, they didn’t always get it. They were slow, dull, and sometimes even blind. At the end of the story one betrayed Jesus, one denied Him three times, and all fled from Him.

As you follow the spiritual formation of the disciples in the passages below I want to encourage you to consider three perspectives:

  • One, what do these accounts reveal to us about how God relates to those who want to follow Him?
  • Two, how do these accounts encourage you as you seek to follow Jesus?
  • Three, what impact do these accounts have on the way you view those who with you are trying to follow Jesus?Mark 4:35-41
    That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

    Mark 6:45-52
    Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.

    Mark 7:17-18
    After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’?

    Mark 8:14-21
    The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.” Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied. “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

    Mark 8:27-33
    Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ.” Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

    Mark 9:2-8
    After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters–one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

    Mark 9:9-13

    As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant. And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”

    Mark 9:30-32
    They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.

    Mark 10:23-31
    Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Peter said to him, “We have left everything to follow you!” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields–and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

    Mark 10:32-45
    They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

    Mark 11:20-25
    In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!” “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

    Mark 14:17-25
    When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me–one who is eating with me.” They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I?” “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.”

    Mark 14:32-43

    They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.

Focus on God

Mark 3:31-35
Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

The gospels record times where Jesus called people to leave their father and mother. But Jesus in no way is suggesting that God’s people should neglect their family responsibilities. He had a high view of family and of the parent-child relationship. For example, Jesus corrected the Pharisees and the teachers of the law for their refusal to follow Old Testament teaching about caring for their parents (Mark 7:9-13; Matthew 15:1-9).

Jesus not only corrected others for their mistreatment of their parents, He set an example of how to treat parents. Even as Jesus was hanging on the cross He was thinking of providing for His mother (John 19:25-27). In spite of this event in Mark’s gospel, we find Jesus’ mother and brothers present in the upper room at Pentecost (Acts 1:4).

What Jesus is saying is that God has a prior claim on us. Obviously, God is more important than family. When we make family our “number one priority” we have created an idol by allowing something to come between us and God. The greatest blessing I can give my wife and children is to love God more than I love them. When my wife or my children become the center of my universe and I live to please her or them, tragedy results.

God is God. My wife is not. God is God. My children are not. And perhaps we should look at it from another point of view. God is God. I am not. And when I expect my family to react to me as if I am God, tragedy often results. The danger for me is that my pride tries to convince me that I am their God – that I provide all and protect all. Truth is God provides and protects and He can do so with or without me. Trouble follows when a wife begins to depend on her husband (or a husband on his wife) where she (he) should be depending on God. My wife’s total dependence on me might make me feel like a real man, but it just might be keeping her from depending on God.

Jesus expands our notion of family. As we put God in the highest place, our family grows. We have brothers and sisters and mothers in those who do God’s will. So following Jesus does not eliminate family responsibility, if anything, it increases it. But following Jesus means we have one priority above all and it’s God, not family. When God’s kingdom breaks in – everything changes, even the very fabric of our family life.

Mozart and Butch Cassidy

“I have been Michael’s number two guy for about five years, and we make a great team. We’re like one of those classic famous teams. He’s like Mozart and I’m like Mozart’s friend. No, I’m like Butch Cassidy and Michael is like Mozart. You try and hurt Mozart, you’re gonna get a bullet in your head, courtesy of Butch Cassidy.” — Dwight Schrute from The Office

Who but Dwight Shrute could possibly list Butch Cassidy and Mozart as “one of those classic famous teams?” While Dwight has the names all wrong, he’s on to something significant. There are a lot of people who just go together. You don’t think about one without thinking of the other. In the music world there was the team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. In cartoons there is Batman and Robin. In television there was the Lone Ranger (a most interesting name considering he really had a partner) and Tonto. In the Old Testament there was Moses and Aaron. In the New Testament there was Paul and Silas.

Sometimes people just work well when they can partner with someone. It’s always better when you can share your hopes and dreams, your victories and struggles, your thoughts and labors. Throughout scripture we see the emphasis on God’s people being in community. From the opening pages of Genesis we realize God recognized the need for companionship.

In Deuteronomy 3:12-20 there’s a great example of the community spirit God’s wants for His people. The Israelites were about to take possession of the promised land. The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh were given land on one side of the Jordan River, while the other tribes were to cross the Jordan for their share of the promised land. The two and a half tribes would receive their land first. But, they were not to be interested only in what affected them.

In fact, the fighting men from the two and a half tribes were told to go across the river in order to help their fellow Israelites take possession of their land in Canaan. Then they could return home and begin settling in. It would have been easy for them to say, “Hey we’ve got our land, you guys are on your own now!” But they didn’t. There was no attitude of “every-man-for-himself.” The tribes considered what was best for the whole of Israel, not just themselves. They had a sense of solidarity. They were bound together as a people. There was a sense of community. A spirit of interdependence rather than independence.

Jesus could have chosen to be a prophet who operated in isolation. Instead, he went to great lengths to maintain His fellowship with God, often rising early in the morning to spend quiet time with God. And then, of course, there is the community of disciples that Jesus called to follow Him. He was not a loner. Jesus chose to experience community throughout His ministry.

Mark 3:13-19
“Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve–designating them apostles–that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder); Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”

In a mountain setting that reminds us of the time when Israel was legally recognized as the people of God (see Exodus 18-19), Jesus designates His apostles, 12 of them, which again identifies His disciples with the twelve tribes of God’s community of faith. Jesus chooses two, perhaps three, sets of brothers to be apostles. Could this be a deliberate attempt to make the group more of a family? Maybe, maybe not. But one thing I am comfortable affirming is that these apostles provided Jesus with fellowship and support.

Maybe Dwight Schrute isn’t as stupid as we think. After all, some of those chosen by Jesus were about as unlikely to be together as Mozart and Butch. Think about it — fishermen and those that collected their despised taxes. People who worked for the oppressive government and those who worked to overthrow the oppressors, even if it took violent means. What a diverse group.

Jesus did not operate as a loner, and neither should we. God wants us to experience community in the church. He wants us to be supportive partners. He wants us to experience with our fellow believers a sense of together being the family of God. We are living stones rising together into a temple fit for God.

1 Peter 2:4-5
“As you come to him, the living Stone–rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him– you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

1 Peter 2:9-10
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

Thank God for the church, the community of faith He has provided for us!

God Knows the Heart

There was this time when Jesus was preaching to a house overflowing with people (in Mark 2). A group of guys showed up, with four of them carrying a paralyzed friend. They were trying to get in to see Jesus, apparently because they had heard of his healing the sick. After they tried to get in the house through the doors, they decided to do whatever it took to get their friend to Jesus.

They go to the roof, probably by climbing exterior stairs and began digging a hole in the roof. Imagine these guys tearing through the tiles on the roof while Jesus is preaching below. Imagine Jesus preaching while this group of determined guys opens up a hole above him.

When they get the opening large enough, they lower their friend down, right in front of Jesus. Jesus commends their faith and forgives the sins of the paralyzed guy. This incites the religious leaders who were present. They knew blasphemy when they heard it. Since only God can forgive sins, telling someone their sins are forgiven is tantamount to blasphemy. While the leaders had not yet spoken out, they were all thinking the same thing – Jesus is blaspheming!

The text tells us that Jesus knew exactly what the teachers of the law were thinking. They had said nothing. They didn’t have to say anything. Jesus knew “in his spirit” exactly what was on their hearts. In order to demonstrate that he had the authority to forgive sins, Jesus healed the paralyzed man.

Think about it for a moment – God knows our hearts. Is that frightening to you? Intimidating? Comforting? Some of each? Here are some other passages that remind us our wonderful God knows our hearts. Our God is wonderful, there is none like Him.

1 Samuel 16:7
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Chronicles 28:9

“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.

Psalm 139:1-2
O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.

Jeremiah 17:9-10
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”

Mark 2:8
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things?

Mark 8:17
Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened?

Mark 12:15
Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.”

Luke 16:15
He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.

Acts 1:24
Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen

Acts 15:8
God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.

Romans 8:27
And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

1 Thessalonians 2:4

On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.

Revelation 2:23
I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

Alone

“At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him” (Mark 1:12-13).

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35).

Alone in the desert. As we begin exploring Mark’s gospel we are caught off guard when we read that just after Jesus’ baptism, the Spirit sent him (drove him, cast him out) into the desert. Jesus was apparently alone, that is, unless you count animals and spiritual beings. Why would the Holy Spirit send Jesus out into the desert? Think of the ways this time of temptation prepared Jesus for his ministry. Consider how this time of temptation prepares us to allow Jesus to minister to us. He does understand, doesn’t he?

Alone before sunrise. Jesus gets up before sunrise and heads out to a solitary place. He prays. Hours earlier Jesus had been visited “by the whole town” who brought their sick to him. Hours later Jesus would begin a preaching tour to the nearby villages throughout Galilee. Think of the ways this time of prayer prepared Jesus for his ministry.

God prepares us to minister. Sometime we are prepared by times of trial and temptation. Other times we are prepared through times of prayer. When we are focused on God we better understand ourselves. When we understand ourselves, our identity and limitations, we minister better.

A friend recently talked to me about his fear of being alone. Most of the conversation focused on temptation. While another friend recently shared with me his practice of getting up before sunrise to spend solitary time with God. Most of the conversation focused on confession and praise. Both friends are uniquely prepared for ministry as a result of their experiences alone.

Do you fear being alone? Do you crave it? How do you use it? What can you learn from Jesus’ alone times? How can you use those solitary experiences to minister to others?